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Last night, after work at the law firm, Starbucks became my home. I claimed a table in the corner, determined not to rise until the novel was finished. My coffee grew cold. Consciousness of time slipped away as I was transported to another world. I pushed away distractions: like the truly awful music coming over the speakers and the groups of students ‘studying’ around me. I rose long after darkness had set in, unaware that it was nearing nine pm.

The draft is complete.

There is something special about this phase, when the story is finally tangible, but my own special secret for a little while longer. And, of course, it helps that my fans are getting restless. Impatient comments are already filling up my Facebook wall, encouraging me to press deeper and deeper into the tale I am weaving.

I’m still terrified that this novel won’t shape up. It will require plenty of work to take my sweet, little ugly duckling and turn it into the jewel-clad swan it ought to be. With my epic, international trip merely fifty-seven days away, I have just that much time to finish solo-editing. Upon my return I’ll need to jump right into editing with my mother. (And if you are wondering why I edit with my mom, check out this post to catch up on all the fun we have.) Sure. It will require some hard labor to polish, but the good books usually do…

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“I don’t know what people are looking for,” I lamented to my mother in between my sips of coffee and the whir of her blow dryer.

Last night carried us to a movie, where–going beyond my comfort zone entirely–I asked a random teenager to help me. She seemed to have an appreciation for fantasy reading so I gave her my business card in the hopes that she will beta-test Mark of Orion. Now, this morning, my debate still rages inside me. My writing style is a bit strange, so what is it that keeps readers flipping through chapter after chapter?

The blow dryer stops for only a second as my mom answers, “I think people are looking for you.”

The comment is left hanging as the blow dryer turns back on, giving me the same ‘dun, dun, dun’ feeling I hope to end each chapter with. People are looking for me? I guess its true. Writing isn’t mathematics. It’s about heart. In my first book I could not share my heart–just my imagination. But for the second novel I risked it. Feedback tripled in all positive ways as readers felt like they really got to know me through my writing.

So, my fellow writers, don’t be afraid to write who you are and how you like to read. Your readers won’t love you because you hit some stereotype genre to mathematical perfection. They will love you for you–or not at all. And that’s okay too.

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So how do we really design epilogues? Here are some common questions and their answers:

How long should the epilogue be? In ‘The Art of the Epilogue’ I wrote that, “The epilogue is the graceful hint from the author that grants readers just a glimpse of what would have come. ” A hint. That means, in its best light, less than a page. No more than a page and half unless you have an exceptional reason to make it longer.

What is the point of the epilogue?  In ‘A Real Epilogue’ I asserted that the epilogue’s job is to leave an emotion in the minds of readers. Stay away from the trap of listing events. They may be interesting. They may exciting. But they defy the purpose of the epilogue. Have an appendix with future events, tell people to check out your website, write a short story, whatever; just don’t write what happened for ten years in bullet points as your epilogue.

Why are you so narrow-minded? The reason I say this is because epilogues are the last things people read, which means people remember them. Only, people tend to forget events. Ask yourself, “Do I want the last impression of my book to be forgettable? Or do I want to give readers some emotion to recall–a positive emotion–about my book?” I think you’ll lean towards the latter.

What comprises the epilogue? The epilogue portrays a scene in the lives of characters. The epilogue is not meant for information; its meant for emotion. Characters–not events and scenery–build emotion. Even if you are the type of writer who causes characters to fall into the backdrop throughout your novel, the epilogue is the moment for you to bring them out, polish them up, and help them shine.

When should I write my epilogue? I highly recommend you write your epilogue at the end of the book. Once you are finished with your body ask yourself, “What’s missing? Where will these characters go from here? What do I hope people will learn from my book?” Before you know it, you’ll be brain-tripping right towards the content of your epilogue.

What are some common types of epilogues?

Well, friends, that’s for another day.

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